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How to explain "black and white" and “gray” thinking to a person who only thinks in black and white.

How to explain "black and white" and “gray” thinking to a person who only thinks in black and white.

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Black and white equal grey Black and white equal grey Document Transcript

  • Black and White =GrayT h e E v a n s G r o u p L L Cw w w . t h e e v a n s g r o u p l l c . c o m5 / 3 1 / 2 0 1 3Chip Evans, PH.D.How to explain "black and white" and“gray” thinking to a person who onlythinks in black and white.
  • 1 | P a g ewww.theevansgroupllc.comBlack and White = GrayThis is in big print because it’s a big subject that no one understands. In life,in our realities, we perceive something or an “ism” to be black or white.It is very clear that a “rock is hard”.But it is not true. A rock is hard only to what we, as scientists today know it tobe; we know only what we know.At one time the world was flat, and the world saw it as very clearly black andwhite.By seeing without vision the world stayed flat longer than it might have if wehad seen in grey, meaning that we saw there were always possibilities.The statement: there is no black and white leads to a consultant saying “butwe design and think only in shades of grey”.How to explain "black and white" and “gray” thinking to a person who onlythinks in black and white.Many individuals with developmental disability think in "concrete" or "black andwhite" terms. This may particularly apply to those with autism or who are affected byfetal exposure to alcohol. “Black and white” thinkers like rules. They like rules that arealways the same way.They dont handle "gray areas." They may not well understand the meaning oflanguage that is ambiguous or abstract. They dont like "wishy-washy," "maybe," "if-then," and "either-or." They may frequently become quite frustrated when faced with"sometimes this and sometimes that." They may become exceptionally frustrated with“I don’t know.”In working with individuals with these frustrations I try to explain "black and white"(concrete and clear) versus "gray areas" (an abstract and ambiguous concept). Iexplain this in specific, black and white terms. You may find this a helpful startingpoint in your own discussions.
  • 2 | P a g ewww.theevansgroupllc.com"Black and White" means there is just one rule.There is a schedule with an exact time, it always the same.All the rules apply to everybody. There are no exceptions.There is just one way to do things.Black and white means things are predictable.Black and white means things seem fair and are clear."Gray areas" means that the rule is sometimes one thing, and sometimes-another thing.It is a "gray area" when different rules apply to different people(Like at a party everyone else enjoys pop, cake and ice cream, but the person who isdiabetic does not.)(Like at a party, everyone else can drink, but the person who is doing the driving forthe night does not.)It is a "gray area" if different rules apply at different times of the day or week(Like pay parking at meters only till 6 p.m. and not on Sunday.)(Like at work, the hours you work might be different on weekdays and weekends.)It is a "gray area" if different rules apply at different times of the year(Like school five days a week, except Spring Break, Christmas, Summer Holidays, andTeacher Discretionary Days.)Its a "gray area" if something is done one way some of the time, and anotherway at other times.(Like being driven to play baseball some days, and having to take the bus when thereis no one around to drive you at other times.)Gray areas are unpredictable, confusing, and seem unfair.For the people you support who become confused about "gray areas" in their lives, itmay help to explain in "black and white" terms, "This is a black and white area." Or,"This is a gray area."By making this distinction black and white they may become better able to handletheir confused emotions. It may help them to have a clear explanation about whysome things are not always the same for all people and at all times.11 Nathan E. Ory, M.A
  • 3 | P a g ewww.theevansgroupllc.comblack-or-whiteYou are presented two alternative states as the only possibilities,when in factmore possibilities exist.Also known as the false dilemma, this insidious tactic has the appearance of forming a logicalargument, but under closer scrutiny it becomes evident that there are more possibilities than theeither/or choice that is presented. Binary, black-or-white thinking doesnt allow for the manydifferent variables, conditions, and contexts in which there would exist more than just the twopossibilities put forth. It frames the argument misleadingly and obscures rational, honest debate.Example: Whilst rallying support for his plan to fundamentally undermine citizens rights, theSupreme Leader told the people they were either on his side, or they were on the side of the enemy. 2An Illogical Logic Conversation:“I believe in God.I do not believe in God.You must prove to me why you do not believe in GodNo, as there is no proof there even is a God.Yes, you must prove to me that there is not a God.”Stated as above there is no way to dialogue. Rational honest debate is completely dismissed by thepremise of the illogic. This works hand and hand with black and white thinking.What we see is only what we know; what we know is only what we havelearned. What we do not know we often believe we know, but not knowing itwe further circle to proof without facts.
  • 4 | P a g ewww.theevansgroupllc.comDealing With Social Anxiety: 
Black and White Thinking ErrorsBLACK & WHITE THINKING is simply a way that our mind convinces us ofsomething that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used toreinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rationaland accurate, but really only serve to keep us in a ‘childish’ mindset unconsciousand unaware of all our possibilities.BLACK & WHITE THINKING Defined:"In psychology, a related phenomenon to the false dilemma is black-and-whitethinking. Many people routinely engage in black-and-white thinking, an example ofwhich is someone who labels other people as all good or all bad"..."The latter is thinking purely in extremes (e.g., goodness vs. evil, innocence vs.corruption, victimization vs. oppression, etc.)".(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)BLACK & WHITE THINKING is a possible symptom of Social AnxietyDisorder and Avoidant Personality Disorders.If you believe you or someone you love match this criteria, take a deep breath & don’tpanic. Many people find themselves matching about 70% of criteria for differentdisorders in DSM IV, yet they don’t have any ‘personality disorders’. And even thenonly about 1/3 of individuals that are diagnosed with a personality disorder byqualified professionals are believed to actually have the disorder.
  • 5 | P a g ewww.theevansgroupllc.comWhat is BLACK & WHITE THINKING (and where in the mind)?Going deeper…these are unconscious beliefs located in the subconscious…a formof arrested emotional development in childhood that has continued into adult years.Unconscious beliefs that are programmed responses in the fight-flight-freeze response.Where does BLACK & WHITE THINKING come from?BLACK & WHITE THINKING is being stuck in (or Anchored to) an emotionallevel of development from childhood experience also called “resource states”.Out of these ‘negative’ beliefs comes an underlying & unconscious commitment. I.E.I’m not good enough, I was a mistake, I’m dumb, etc.…Anchoring to a ‘resource state’ and BLACK & WHITE THINKINGTo describe this classical conditioning behavior called anchoring in a humancontext. We must understand and take note that as we go through life we build a lotof anchors for various responses.Examples: How many of us feel a certain way when we hear "Our song", or have asense of dread when we hear a certain tone in a parents voice?Anchors are learned responses…and the amazing thing about an anchor is that it isusually learned in result of a single learning experience (psychotherapists call theresource state). It is normally the case that there is one defining incident that createsthe anchor program in the subconscious. Then the learned response is repeated andconditioned.Pavlov’s LawPavlov was a scientist in the 1800’s who discovered that behaviors could be triggeredby signals. Pavlov tested ringing a bell while simultaneously presenting dogswith food. Before long, the dogs ‘learned’ to salivate to the sound of the bell,without the food. The bell became a ‘trigger’ for the response ofsalivation. Splitting is conditioned in much the same way.This is called behavioral conditioning .
  • 6 | P a g ewww.theevansgroupllc.comArrested Emotional Development and BLACK & WHITE THINKINGCentral to personality disorder problems, is “arrested emotional development”,which is triggered by parental neglect and/or abuse in infancy and childhood (birth-18years old).NOTE: Adult development can be accomplished, but it takes time andtreatment to mend the core trauma wounds that are inherently at the root of thisdysfunction of emotional development.Normal Adult Thinking verses BLACK & WHITE THINKINGCritical adult thinking involves…logical reality based thinking andreasoning…(including skills such as comparison, classification, sequencing,cause/effect, patterning, webbing, analogies, deductive & inductive reasoning,forecasting, planning, hypothesizing, & critiquing).This brings us to “The Eight Psychosocial Stages of Human Development”Dr. Erik Erikson, the famous psychologist (1902-1994) who proposed these Stagesfound that...…Unresolved Childhood Developmental Tasks “leave a life-long residue ofemotional immaturity.”In other words…You’re original, immature, unidentified Subconscious Issues Are controlling yourbehaviors—and even your thinking...2. Todd TarzerIn every debate over black vs. white, while philosophic and strategic, some must debate the validityof the colors.
  • 7 | P a g ewww.theevansgroupllc.comCognitive Distortion: How Does Black-and-WhiteThinking Hurt Us?“How are you?” asked one of my co-workers as I walked into the office this morning.“Oh,” I said, “I’m exhausted. How are you?”And I can’t remember how she answered that question because I was too busy thinking about what I’d just told her aboutbeing exhausted. Was I really exhausted? Not so much, I determined, after a little more thought. I was a bit sleepy,maybe, but I’d gotten eight hours of sleep. Why did I tell her I was exhausted?Okay, grab a paper & pen. Give this little challenge a try: below, you’ll find several pairs of opposites. Some of them aregrade-school simple; some are a little more complex. However, these are words that you probably use on a daily basis.Here’s the challenge: write down each of the below pair of opposites on a piece of paper. Then, write down a word — aSINGLE word — that accurately describes the middle ground between the pair of opposites.Example: hot and cold. A good answer here would be “warm”, “lukewarm”, or “temperate”.Ready? Promise not to scroll down until you complete this entire activity? Good. Okay, here we go:1. black and white2. large and small3. up and down4. left and right5. fast and slow6. easy and hard7. young and old8. loud and quiet9. good and bad10. near and far11. pass and fail12. happy and sad13. clean and dirty14. shy and outgoing15. calm and anxiousGot your list? Alright, take a good look at all of the words you’ve written down. Do they have anything in common? Ifyour list is anything like mine, all of the “middle ground” words are similar in a way: they’re all a bit muddy and bland.Let’s go over some possible answers: obviously, the color “gray” falls between black and white, and I’ll bet you wrotethat one down. Where are you if you’re neither left nor right? Well, you’re “moderate” or in the “center”. If you’re notyoung or old, perhaps you’re “middle-aged”. What if you’re buying a shirt and it’s not small or large? It’s probably amedium.Medium, middle-aged, moderate, average, gray. Maybe you even wrote the words “normal”, “so-so”, or “average” onyour paper. Most writers try to avoid using these words & other gray-colored language altogether. (Unless they’re, um,writing a blog entry about those very words.)Did you have trouble nearing the end of the activity? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I couldn’t find any way to describethe middle ground between “shy and outgoing” or “calm and anxious” with a single word. Or even with a bunch ofwords. There’s no convenient word or phrase in the English language, it seems, to describe the middle ground betweenseveral sets of the polar opposites listed above. How does this deficiency of the English language harm us?
  • 8 | P a g ewww.theevansgroupllc.comTake a look at the word list again. How often do you use words like “happy and sad”? You’ve probably uttered most ofthem today without even realizing it. After all, simplifying our stories for others with polar words like “sad”, “bad”, and“far” is convenient. It’s easier for a student to lament that his or her research paper is “far” from being completed(especially if they’re seeking empathy) than to get into the details of exactly how much is done and how much is left towrite. And we’re all guilty of watching a movie or reading the news and calling someone “the bad guy” — it sounds a lotmore poignant than qualifying your statement & balancing it with a list of their positive attributes. Resorting to polarwords (in cases where a middle-ground word would more accurately describe the situation) can change the truth of thesituation that we are describing.Each of the above pairs of opposites (and many, many more) can induce dichotomous thinking. It’s commonly referredto as “black and white” thinking and it can have negative effects on the way we see ourselves or the situations that weare using language to describe.Back to my morning conversation with my co-worker: I told her I was exhausted, but it wasn’t a truthful statement. It’snot like I meant to lie to her. I mean, why would I lie about my level of tiredness? There’s no good reason for that. WhatI did do was unconsciously utilize dichotomous language. I exaggerated my own feelings of sleepiness.I’ll face it; I like being descriptive. And “exhausted” packs more of a verbal punch than words like “sleepy” and“drowsy.” But again, using dichotomous language boosts dichotomous thinking, and the latter is a type of cognitivedistortion that can negatively influence the way you feel about yourself. If you’re dealing with anxiety, casual usage ofextremely polar words can lead you to magnify thoughts and events through a distorted lens that can ultimately makeyou more anxious.Here’s a classic example: “I think I totally failed my math test.” The word “fail” falls at the polar end of the pass/failcontinuum. If you find yourself saying or thinking something similar, stop. Step out of your brain for a second andengage in some meta-cognition, or thinking about thinking. How’d you come to the conclusion that you failed? Maybeyou didn’t pass, but are you sure that you failed? Might your performance have fallen somewhere in the middle of passand fail?Luckily, in academia, there are letter grades from A through F that can break down the continuum a bit & help you toavoid dichotomous thinking. But in other contexts, it’s not so easy: Let’s say you tell a friend that you’re feeling anxious.Perhaps you’re certain that you’re not calm, but how far from calm are you? Are you truly anxious — with a racing heart,rapid breathing, and sweaty palms — or are you somewhere in the middle of calm and anxious? How can you decreaseyour black and white thinking? The answer is pretty simple: remember to add shades of gray.There’s no good word to describe the middle ground in the above scenario with anxiety — not one that I can think of,at least — but if you can coin one, use it. Or, try using a number scale to describe where you fall on the calm/anxiouscontinuum. If the worst anxiety you’ve ever felt is a 10, perhaps public speaking is only a 7 and thinking about a deadlineat work is a 5.Try to catch yourself using this type of black-and-white thinking for the next few days. Jot down the situation in whichyou used an exaggerated word; then, take a step back, assess your word choice, and improve your story with a gray-colored word. You’re turning 40 today and you just called yourself old. How true is this? Do you know anyone who isolder? Might you simply be middle-aged? You told yourself today that you’re shy; but, are you only shy in a particularsituation? Where do you fall on the shyness scale of 1 to 10?Catching yourself using dichotomous thinking (and correcting yourself) can transform an unrealistic thought into a moretruthful (and probably less stress-inducing) one. Unglamorous adjectives like “middle-aged” or “in-between” and low-impact phrases like “moderately shy” probably won’t win you any grand literary awards, but they do stand a good chanceat helping you view the world through a more accurate lens.33 Summer Bertsky
  • 9 | P a g ewww.theevansgroupllc.comWhat this means:1. Seeing in black and white limits thinking2. Few things that appear to be black or white are3. Black and white thinkers ignore innovation subconsciously4. It is”obvious” to a black and white thinker; it is obvious that it is not obvious to a gray thinker.5. Creativity does not occur out of black and white thinking.6. Things are only obvious to what we know, not what we don’t know.7. Black and white thinkers are often “right”; deadly right, as they miss any innuendo or sign of grayand “miss the movie”.8. People and companies can learn “to think out of the box” and want to; this is the same as eliminatingblack and white thinking.9. Whatever experience you are having you are creating. This does not hold true in black or white andcreates repression.Chip Evans, PH.D.PresidentThe Evans Group LLCwww.theevansgroupllc.com